There’s a certain amount of unease in the video game market at the moment.
Last year’s results were dismal. Console sales fell sharply in some markets, largely due to PlayStation 5 inventory shortages.
Console and PC software sales also declined, although legacy games (titles released in previous years) were the main cause. Games such as GTA 5 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe saw their sales decline as they lowered their locked-out highs. Meanwhile, Call of Duty, due out in 2021, also performed poorly.
Across Europe, sales of new games soared by 16 % . This is due to the strong start of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Elden Ring, LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, Pokemon and God of War Ragnarok.
But on the flip side, titles with relatively large budgets have fallen short of their mark and are struggling to rank. And a recent report from a company like Ubisoft suggests a soft market for titles outside of big franchises.
Are subscriptions affecting the performance of these games? Is the cost of living crisis making consumers more selective? Are rising game prices alienating certain customers? And what will it be like in 2023?
It is not limited to home game consoles and PCs. Mobile faces some real challenges when it comes to user acquisition and the ability to target ads. With marketing budgets likely to fall in 2023, there’s an unusually real sense of unease in the smartphone space.
The anxiety is understandable. But there are plenty of reasons, though not everyone’s, that prove 2023 will be a landmark year for the games business.
Based on historical data and trends, I’ve rounded up 6 reasons 2023 is going to be awesome, and 6 reasons why it might be right to be cautious.
6 reasons why 2023 means a lot for video games
●1. PS5 and Xbox Series X really arrive
To use the F1 analogy, they’ve been stuck behind the safety car since the new Xbox and PlayStation launched in November 2020. Its success has been limited by manufacturing processes, and ongoing parts shortages have dragged both platforms down considerably.
For much of 2022, Xbox and PlayStation were unable to supply demand. PS5 hardware sales were down 35% year-on-year last year as inventories fell across Europe.
That’s over. Last week, PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan declared that the PS5 would be in unlimited supply . A significant increase in inventory during December led to a surge in sales in major markets. There’s still work to be done, especially in Europe, but the days of buying a PS5 on eBay are over. The safety car has been removed. Departure.
2. Spider-Man 2 could be the biggest launch in PlayStation history
PlayStation has delivered some big games since the PS5 launch, but none bigger than last year’s God of War Ragnarok, ending the year as one of the biggest console games in the world.
In 2023, PS5’s big game is Spider-Man 2, which seems destined for a major title. The first is one of the fastest-selling titles in PlayStation history. Its mini-sequel, Spider-Man Miles Morales, was the centerpiece of the PS5R’s launch. More than 33 million people are playing those games, and they’ve recently made their way into the PC market as well. Insomniac, the developer of this work, has always been one of the best developers among major game developers.
Like the previous work, is there a possibility that it will appear in the September release frame? Or will Sony aim for a Christmas release after God of War Ragnarok’s massive success? If so, it’s clearly going to be a game that fills the void for Call of Duty. It can be said that this work is sure to be a big hit.
3. Starfield headlines Xbox comeback
Bethesda Games Studios is a hitmaker. Fallout and Elder Scrolls are mega-franchises, with each new release cracking the top of the bestseller charts.
Starfield is a little different than those games. Be a new IP. And it won’t be on the market-leading PS5. PS4 accounts for 40% to 45% of Fallout 4 sales in major markets, depending on the country.
But the game’s inclusion in Game Pass on both PC and console makes it an affordable purchase compared to other big titles this year. Outside of hardware, it’s likely to be the biggest Xbox launch since the Halo series’ heyday. Starfield is expected to grab more players at launch than any Bethesda game to date.
Starfield is the star, but the revival of Forza Motorsport is awaited, and Microsoft’s major games such as Redfall, Bethesda’s new IP, are lined up. Xbox, which was quiet in 2022, looks to be pretty strong in 2023.
4. Zelda’s rapid progress continues in Tears of the Kingdom
Zelda is a franchise icon. But until Breath of the Wild, no Zelda game had crossed the 10 million mark. In fact, the bestsellers up to that point were Twilight Princess on Wii and GameCube, which sold just under 9 million units.
Breath of the Wild changed all that. Its sales are now more than three times those of Twilight Princess. It ranks above games that were previously looked up to, such as Super Mario and Pokémon. It was a launch title for the Nintendo Switch, and in the first month more people bought copies of the game than there were Switch consoles.
Breath of the Wild’s sales have been going on for years, so some of its audience may have drifted away. If you look at historical data from when two Zelda games were launched on a single platform, you can see a sharp decline in players for the second game. Ocarina at the time of N64 was 7.6 million, Majora’s Mask was 3.4 million. Skyward Sword, which took over Twilight Princess’s 8.7 million units, remained at 3.7 million units.
But these comparisons are Zelda games from different eras, and the platform contexts are completely different when these second Zelda games come out. But even if that ratio continues, and Tears of the Kingdom manages to achieve less than half the sales of Breath of the Wild, it’s still going to be the second-best Zelda game of all time, by a large margin.
Additionally, the fact that there are 120 million Switch owners (instead of 3 million) makes it almost certain that Tears of the Kingdom will be the biggest Zelda game release of all time.
●5. Nintendo Switch is still going on
Last year, the Nintendo Switch became the world’s largest game console. Even in countries where the platform saw a heavier decline, such as the UK, it still led the market. Additionally, Nintendo recently revealed that over 100 million people accessed the Switch in the 12 months ending September 2022.
A closer look at the hardware numbers shows that, while Switch sales are down, many markets are selling better than before lockdown. So the Switch 2 story is a little premature.
6. …and there are bigger games
Above, we’ve focused on the three major console exclusive titles, but this year is packed with big titles for both PC and console. Resident Evil 4 Remake, Suicide Squad, Diablo 4, Street Fighter 6, Dead Island 2, Minecraft Legends… and this is only in the first half of this year.
There are also some third-party blockbusters. Ubisoft plans to release a new Assassin’s Creed (Mirage) in 2023. It’s a more focused title than previous games, so it’s entirely unclear what scale the publisher plans for. In March, EA will bring Star Wars: Jedi Survivor, the next big single-player Star Wars game to market. And in June, the next numbered work in the Final Fantasy series is coming.
The featured game is Hogwarts Legacy. Harry Potter games have historically been hugely popular with more people. The RPG has its challenges, in part because of the ongoing debate surrounding Harry Potter author JK Rowling and her views on trans rights. In addition, it will be released with a time lag, starting with the PS5 and Xbox series versions, and appearing on Switch and older home game consoles a little later this year. Still, it’s getting enough buzz with its influencer-focused PR and marketing campaigns building awareness. If the quality is good, hopefully it will be one of the biggest games of the year.
…and 6 reasons to be careful
1. The game industry is not recession-proof
There is a belief that video games are recession-proof.
The idea is that a recession cuts down on holidays, movie theaters and eating out, while gaming offers a much higher value for entertainment.
This builds on the previous recession that coincided with the success of the Xbox 360, Wii, DS, Call of Duty, Guitar Hero and more. But now things are different. The Wii and Xbox 360 didn’t have to compete with so many free games and video services like Netflix that arguably offer even better value. And will consumers be willing to give up their holidays not too long after the lockdown era?
Looking at the data from the last recession, there are a lot of games with big sales overall. But titles other than really big brands were in a tough spot. In 2023, consumers may look to games for entertainment, but still be selective about where they spend their money.
●2. Hybrid work style is still difficult
During COVID-19, work-from-home orders had a huge impact on game development schedules, especially for games that were still in the relatively early stages of development. Some studios have adapted to the new way of working, finding a middle ground between working from home and working in the office, and the pace is picking up. But for some teams, progress is slower than it used to be. In other words, I would like that number to decrease if possible, but it is expected that delays will continue to occur even in 2023.
3. Nintendo Switch has passed its peak
Switch is still a strong platform, but it’s definitely in its later stages. Nintendo’s consoles will remain a key player this year, but hardware sales will decline and software performance will depend on more than Zelda.
4. No full version of Call of Duty will be released
Call of Duty is such a major selling point that it could make or break the year. Call of Duty: Vanguard’s disappointing sales have had a major impact on overall market performance at the end of 2021.
Activision’s plans for this year’s Call of Duty will feature a ton of Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone digital content. That means that while the franchise has a market presence, there won’t be a single big title launch driving the market this Christmas.
●5. Uncertainty due to restructuring of the FIFA brand
It may be the first year in a decade that the European charts aren’t topped by the Call of Duty and FIFA letters. Of course, FIFA will only be rebranded to EA Sports FC, and all other licenses (teams, leagues, stadiums, players) will remain the same, making it the best-selling game of the year.
With no competition, EA is less afraid of losing its FIFA brand identity. But losing the FIFA name requires some serious messaging, and there’s an element of uncertainty about what it means for the iconic football game, at least in the short term.
6. Prices will rise
Game prices are already rising due to rising inflation, the need for heavy investment, and rising game development costs. Microsoft has already hinted that its own titles will have to keep up with price increases. In 2023, it certainly won’t be cheaper.